Your Postpartum Doula Supports You!
There is a huge gap in our maternal health care system when we send a mother home only two days after birthing her child with no follow-up care besides a 2-week checkup.
She is expected to heal after a significant medical experience while at the same time providing on-demand 24-hour care to her newborn. It sounds absurd on paper, but it is exactly what a woman birthing a child in the United States can expect.
This is where a postpartum doula is vital to the well-being of the entire family. I once heard the role compared to a golf caddie: having someone walk alongside you who knows the game, hands you the tools you need, and sets you up for success; while the golfer ultimately does the actual work with an increased confidence.
Whether it is a first baby or a fourth, having a postpartum game plan is imperative.
As a postpartum doula, I set up each client with a transition plan focused on each family’s needs and specific concerns. This time can also be used to discuss roles and expectations for the entire family. Oftentimes, family and friends want to help the new parents but do not know how. Laying out the transition plan makes it easier for the new parents to clearly communicate what they need whether it is a meal train, gift registry, or childcare help for older siblings. The transition plan also provides an opportunity to tailor doula support to meet the unique needs of the family.
Once the plan is written and discussed, we wait for the baby’s arrival to put the plan into action. Game Day! A postpartum doula enters the family’s home during such an intimate, vulnerable time. Doula support is emotional, informational, and hands-on. The most important part of the job is establishing the connection and building the relationship as one of non-judgmental support and guidance. Doula support is family-centered, rather than baby-centered, and includes checking in with the mother to see how her healing is progressing and checking in with the partner to see how he is adjusting and answering questions.
And just like a caddy, the doula provides the tools: evidence-based information and education including setting up healthy sleep habits, understanding baby’s cues and cries, establishing a routine, and feeding, either bottle or at the breast. Sometimes a doula models things like swaddling or soothing. And sometimes she is just there to tell the parents that they are doing an amazing job. Other times the doula takes on a coaching role as new parents build their confidence. One of the biggest advantages of working with a postpartum doula is actually a mother’s increased confidence in her abilities.
A postpartum doula’s hands-on support is three-fold:
- the mother’s recovery from the birth,
- baby’s adjustment to life outside the womb,
- and anything that gets in the way of those two things.
I always start my postpartum visits by asking mothers to fill in the blank: It would be amazing if today __________. This sets the tone for my shift and lets me know what she needs. Sometimes it is as simple as a shower or a nap while the baby’s needs are attended to. Sometimes, it is uninterrupted nighttime sleep as overnight shifts are an option for families to get the restorative sleep they need. Sometimes it is a listening ear as doulas are trained to identify signs of perinatal mood disorders. And sometimes it is the dishes or laundry that the family has not been able to attend to.
Each doula shift is focused on the family’s unique needs on that particular day, helping to lighten the load while families transition into their new roles as parents in whatever capacity the family needs. A doula should anticipate and know the things parents don’t even know they need.
A postpartum doula typically spends about 3 months with each family in what is sometimes called the “fourth trimester”. It is the period of time when a baby’s schedule is most unpredictable and entirely on-demand. The doula comes into the household to help elevate this postpartum period so that it truly lives up to the expectations of being a joyous momentous time for the family. Ultimately, the goal of the doula is to make sure you don’t just survive the course but truly thrive!
Laura Pasyanos, Owner & Founder
Laura is the founder & owner of Southern Doula Services. She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her work as a doula and agency owner.
Her passion for newborns and maternal health is evident in the compassionate and personalized care she and her team of doulas provide to families during this special time.
Reach out today to book your free Care Consultation.